April 10, 2012
By Rich Barton
NJS.com Staff Writer
Wayne Hills' Lee Weisberger picked up a 6-3, 6-4 win at first singles as the Patriots cruised to a 5-0 win over Clifton on Monday.
WAYNE – For the past few years, the landscape has not changed one bit. Wayne Hills is by far the team to beat in Passaic County and its first-singles standout Lee Weisberger has been virtually unmatched against county competition. Both Weisberger and the team as a whole have won county titles the past three years. But yesterday provided a new challenge as an emerging Clifton squad visited town looking to make a statement and give the Patriots something to think about with the Passaic County Tournament just two weeks away. However, Wayne Hills made an emphatic statement of its own that they are still the team to beat for county supremacy.
Led by a 6-3, 6-4 win by Weisberger over Richard Rangga in a rematch of last year’s Passaic County first-singles flight final, Wayne Hills dropped just one set en route to a 5-0 sweep over Clifton in a battle of previously unbeaten teams yesterday at Wayne Hills High School.
“I thought we played pretty well across the board and we really wanted this win,” said Weisberger, who advanced to the fourth round of the state singles tournament last year.
Clifton opened some eyes in its season-opener. With just one senior in the starting lineup, the Mustangs battled back from a one-set deficit at three positions to pull out a 3-2 win over Don Bosco Prep. Once again the Mustangs stumbled out of the gate early, dropping the first set in four out of the five matches. While the Mustangs played better in each of those four matches in the second set, it was simply too much adversity to overcome.
“When you play a team like Wayne Hills, you can’t afford to start slow and then try to grind your way back at four separate matches,” said Clifton head coach Andrea Bobby. “Our confidence started to build as the match went on, but we had too much ground to make up.”
“We have the game to compete and I thought we fought hard. It’s about us maintaining that confidence and riding that wave. You have to feel like you can win going into the match today, which we had. We just didn’t play our best and an excellent team like Wayne Hills is going to beat if you don’t have your best day. It’s a good gauge of where we’re at and how far we have to go to get to the next level.”
Wayne Hills quickly got two points on the board at second singles and third singles. Robert Zakotnik and Jessie O’Brien combined to drop just five games between them to put the Patriots one match away from victory.
They clinched the match at second doubles when Ryan Katine and Josh Axelband pulled out a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Szymon Kutyla and Tim Laux of Clifton (3-1).
The marquee matchup was at first singles with Weisberger and Richard Rangga, a sophomore, with Weisberger scoring a break early in the first set and another in the second to grab a 4-3 lead on his way to a 6-3, 6-4 win.
“I knew it was going to be a good match. He’s a real tough player and we’re always on an even level,” said Weisberger. “It’s good to play different types of players like I did last week. It prepares you to play against a tough competitor like (Rangga).”
Wayne Hills (4-0) earned its other point at first doubles when Alex Green and Brett Goldberg battled back after dropping the first set for a 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Shilpan Chokshi and Jefferson Rangga. The Patriots have matches against Passaic Valley and Lakeland before a showdown against highly-regarded Fair Lawn next Monday. Although there is still a long way to go before the Patriots reach their goals, today’s victory shows that they right where they want to be at this point in the season.
“We go into every year with the same mindset to win the county tournament and advance far in the states,” added Weisberger. “When you play tough matches like we did today and improve your game every day, good things will come of it. It’s been a successful strategy that has worked over the years and we hope that it a successful one this year as well.”
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